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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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Digital access to Jewish records in Poland expanded

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JRI-Poland executive director Stanley Diamond, right, co-signs the agreement with the Polish State Archives with An-drzej Szydlo, the consul general of Poland in Montreal. A formal signing also took place in Warsaw.

The Polish State Archives (PSA) and Jewish Records Indexing – Poland (JRI-Poland) www.jri-poland.org have entered into a new multi-year agreement to expand access to Jewish records in that country.

The signing of this agreement on Feb. 15 launches a new phase in the existing co-operation between the not-for-profit JRI-Poland and the archives, said PSA general director Wladyslaw Stepniak.

JRI-Poland’s searchable online database of records from more than 550 towns is the starting point in Jewish family history research in Poland, said its founder and executive director Stanley Diamond of Montreal.

“The database of records going back to the late 18th century belies the misleading notion that Jewish records of Poland were destroyed in World War II,” he said.

The agreement will enable JRI-Poland, which is incorporated in Bethesda, Md., to rapidly expand its current online database of indices to five million records, the largest database of Jewish vital records online. 

The PSA announced that it is beginning a massive effort to digitize all vital records in its more than 30 regional archives.  These will be available – free – on its National Digital Archives and Regional Archive websites. 

JRI-Poland will be linking its search results to the PSA’s digital images of the Jewish records. As a result of the massive indexing undertaken by JRI-Poland since it founding in 1995, the indices to Jewish records will form the bulk of all digital image linking on the PSA website.

“Thus, for the first time a non-profit organization will be linking its search results to vital record images provided by a European archives,” Diamond said.

In addition, JRI-Poland and the PSA will institute a new order processing system to simplify the process of obtaining copies of archival records. 

JRI-Poland will have the administrative responsibility of processing orders for records from branches of the PSA.

Besides being a boon to amateur genealogists, the JRI-Poland database and volunteers have been instrumental in reuniting families separated by the Holocaust and helping hidden children find their identities, Diamond said.

“JRI-Poland has also been recognized by the medical and scientific communities for the potential assistance to Ashkenazi families trying to trace medical histories, particularly those at increased risk for hereditary conditions and diseases,” he said.

JRI - Poland may help those who may need answers to medical-related questions or require bone marrow or other transplants. Because of this, JRI-Poland has received commendations from the Gift of Life Foundation and the National Marrow Donor Program.

JRI-Poland is run by a global board, aided by hundreds of volunteers and serving thousands of researchers, funded by groups and private genealogists around the world.

JRI-Poland board member Jeff Cymbler, a New York lawyer and son of a Holocaust survivor, lauded Diamond’s dedication. “[His] tireless and selfless efforts...in my view, exceed any contribution that any one person has ever made on behalf of the Jewish genealogical community. In addition, the work that [he has] nurtured on a daily basis for these many years on behalf of Holocaust remembrance and documentation can only be counted second to the work of Yad Vashem in compiling the millions of pages of testimony…[He] has made it possible for thousands and will make it possible for thousands to come to corroborate and supplement the testimonies given by survivors and their progeny.”

For more information, visit and www.archiwa.gov.pl/en/news.html.

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